Mazda gets its message across loud and clear
The good news for the Japanese firm is that the Mazda 6 is an incredibly sleek and stylish car
The Mazda 6 is impressively nimble for its size
Model: Mazda 6
Fuel: Petrol and diesel
Date Reviewed: December 7, 2016
ROAD TEST: What is to be done with Mazda? It’s one of the most infuriating brands on the motoring planet. Well-regarded for quality engineering and an enviable sporting pedigree, it has earned a reputation as one of the best used-car buys on the market. And yet it languishes in the doldrums of the sales table, largely because it invariably fails to get its message across.
A car firm with the pedigree of Mazda should have more than a 2 per cent market share. It should not be more than 1,200 new car sales behind Hyundai in January alone.
It would not be such an issue if the new Mazda 6 wasn’t such a good car. Part of the problem is the silly marketing gibberish that Mazda has adopted to highlight its new technology advances. It has managed to cloak sound engineering ideas in a mist of marketing code. God forbid that the motoring public should ever find out that you’ve actually come up with some good ideas.
SkyActiv is the all-encompassing title of a host of engineering improvements designed to reduce vehicle weight and thereby cut down fuel consumption. The problem is that the term is nonsense and many of the technical improvements it encompasses are too niche for the general public. Improved compression ratios may set the eyes of engineers alight, but it’s not the sort of thing owners can drop into general conversation down the pub: not unless they want to clear the room.
The good news for the Japanese firm is that the Mazda 6 is an incredibly sleek and stylish car, the most eye-catching new model in its class. But there’s more to this car than looks alone. It’s comfortable, quick, nice to drive, well-equipped and will keep the penny-pinching fleet manager happy when it comes to fuel economy and motor tax.
Lighter and longer
While it manages to be lighter than its rivals, thanks in part to the use of high-tensile steel, it’s also noticeably longer than before. That means there’s ample room for family motoring and a very impressive boot, with 489 litres on offer even with the rear seats in use. Rear seat legroom is beaten by the Skoda Superb but that’s about the only rival that matches it.
The 6 is also impressively nimble for its size. There’s a decent weighting to the steering and good response to inputs. It’s right up there with the Ford Mondeo in terms of driving dynamics. Based on the same platform as the recently launched CX-5 crossover, it shares the same multi-link rear suspension set-up as the diminutive SUV, which makes for decent handling, particularly given its lower centre of gravity.
The new Mazda 6 also features a rather ingenious system that converts braking power into an electrical charge, stores it and then uses it when needed on the car’s electronics. Christened with the indecipherable monicker of i-Eloop, it can cut fuel consumption by up to 10 per cent, claims Mazda.
Engine choices in Ireland are limited to a four-cylinder 145bhp 2.0-litre petrol and a 2.2-litre diesel engine in 150bhp with manual transmission or 175bhp with automatic. Again, these feature the new SkyActiv engineering touch, which means impressive compression ratios for both in the order of 14:1 – impressively high for the petrol engine and low for the diesel. Understandably, most owners won’t know what that means, but suffice to say the end result is greater efficiency in both, with a fuel economy figure for the 150bhp diesel of 4.1 l/100km (67mpg), emissions of 108g/km and a 0-100km/h time of just nine seconds.
Fiddly onscreen buttons
Like its underpinnings, a lot of the cabin features have come from the recently launched CX-5. That means nice, soft-touch plastics but also a touchscreen system that drove me demented, with small onscreen buttons that are fiddly to use. Thankfully, most of the important changes can be done from the steering wheel controls, and the fantastic sound quality from the Bose stereo on the Sport SE version eased fraying tempers.
In terms of specification, there is an entry-level petrol version, but it’s unlikely to sell in large numbers. The 2.2-litre diesel, on the other hand, only comes in the higher grades, which means that for most buyers the starting price is €31,795.
The equipment on this diesel entry-level version is relatively impressive, but if you can make the leap to Sport SE for another €4,100, then you get all the treats such as heated leather seats and arguably the most important aesthetic add-on: 19-inch alloys. You also get the Bose stereo system thrown into the mix – the sound quality of the system rivals anything we’ve tried in luxury cars at three times the price.
If you don’t want to spend the extra money on the Sport SE version, then at least consider getting the 19-inch alloys. They complete the look of the car – it would be a sin to let it out of the showroom shod in anything else. They don’t compromise on the ride, either, with just a slight rumble over badly surfaced roads; but that’s more than compensated by the look.
Pricing is not the Mazda 6’s strongest suit. Ignoring the special entry-level petrol version, the range really starts with the 2.2-litre diesel Sport at €31,795. Given the equipment level and the power output, it’s not really designed to match big-name rivals who all have lower-powered, less-equipped diesel variants on sale at lower prices. That means Mazda is pitching this new 6 at the upper end of the family saloon market.
Even then it’s not the value proposition. The Sport SE, with its impressive trim, is just shy of €36,000. That’s the top-end market for rivals and within shooting distance of the premium-brand family entrants.
Best-looking family saloon
So, despite coming up with the best-looking family saloon out there at present, Mazda will need to add smaller engines to the range or adjust its prices to find a market for this car. The brand has lost a lot of ground lately to the vibrant Korean brands, and the new Hyundai i40 will undoubtedly win over some potential Mazda customers with its strong offering and price. Yet if the new Mazda6 does fit within your budget then you would be silly to ignore it. It should be on the shortlist for anyone considering a mid-range Mondeo, Avensis or Passat.
It might not be the car that rescues Mazda from the doldrums but it’s a big step in the right direction.
Engine:2191cc four-cylinder diesel putting out 150bhp @ 4,500rpm and 380Nm of torque from 2,000rpm
Emissions (motor tax):108g/km (€190)
Fuel economy:4.1 L/100km (67 mpg)
Features: Standard on all: Dynamic stability control; dual front, side and curtain airbags; hill hold assist; alarm and immobiliser; 17-inch alloys; electric door mirrors (heated on Sport and Sport SE versions); air-con; Halogen daytime running lights; 60/40 split rear seat; USB/Aux/iPod connection; radio/CD with four speakers; Bluetooth; 5.8-inch colour touchscreen. Sport version features: heated door mirrors; dualzone air-con; six speakers; parking sensors front and rear; rain-sensing wipers; smart city brake support; tinted glass. Sport SE version features: Electrically powered heated front seats; leather seats; Bixenon lights and LED daytime running lights; 19-inch alloys; 11 Bose stereo system with 11 speakers.
Price: €35,895 for Sport SE (starts at €28,745 for 2-litre petrol 145bhp and €31,795 for diesel Sport)
Rivals: Ford Mondeo 4dr 2.0 TDCi 160bhp Titanium €34,135; Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TDi 140bhp Highline €34,985; Toyota Avensis 2.2 D-4D 150bhp Luna €34,165; Peugeot 508 2.0 Hdi Allure 140bhp €33,190; Opel Insignia 2.0 CDTi 160bhp Elite €34,380; Skoda Superb 2.0 TDi 170bhp Elegance €32,810